Small nonprofits are often torn between two schools of thought as they evaluate donor databases.
On one hand, there are all-in-one systems with every functionality you could possibly need (and many more you will never use) built into the system. Because everything is included, the price tag may be extremely high, but everything is included in one package.
On the other hand, you have donor management systems that have core features built in and use integrations of other software products which stretch the functionality of the system. Popular software platforms for email, accounting, payment processing and more, help to create a more flexible database and allows for a lower price point.
Most small nonprofits will weigh the pros and cons before making the final decision. Unfortunately, the biggest pro of an all-in-one donor database often turns out to be a con, creating a dilemma for the nonprofit.
The Downside of All-in-One Donor Management Software
An all-in-one system is exactly that, with everything included in a single product and no need for any outside software. But is that a good thing?
Let’s use email as an example because email is an essential tool for small nonprofits.
Suppose you invest in an all-in-one donor database and find that the email platform takes a long time to learn and is difficult to use. Even worse, it doesn’t have all the functionality your nonprofit needs!
Only the tool that’s built into the all-in-one platform can be used with that system, so you might have to adjust your email strategy or find a workaround to accommodate the email tool and accept the inevitable grumbling from users who don’t like it.
Another option is to use a third-party email tool outside the system, but that will add even more cost and make it much more complicated to manage email campaigns. And suddenly, your all-in-one donor database isn’t all-in-one anymore.
Basically, you’re stuck in a lose-lose situation because of the limitations of using an all-in-one system. Committing to such a system can be a costly risk, especially for small nonprofits with tight budgets.
The Flexibility of Integrations
For donor databases that allow you to integrate with popular platforms for key functions, the monthly fee is typically much lower than that of an all-in-one. Integrations also provide you with more options and flexibility!
Let’s go back to the email example.
Suppose your nonprofit has been using Constant Contact for years. Everyone in your nonprofit knows how to use it and likes it. It does everything you need it to do.
With an all-in-one system, you would have to abandon Constant Contact and learn how to use the built-in email tool. The time, money, and resources you had previously devoted to mastering Constant Contact would be a sunk cost.
With a donor database that integrates with Constant Contact, you can maximize your existing investments and continue to use the tool that works for your organization. You also have the freedom to switch to another platform like MailChimp if you choose.
One final point to consider is that some donor management software companies will allow integrations but charge a fee. Make sure to find out if you need to pay extra for each integration with a third-party platform.
If you’re trying to decide between an all-in-one donor database and a system that allows integrations, contact us at Eleo to schedule a demo. We’ll show you real-world benefits of having a more flexible, cost-efficient donor database and how it can improve your nonprofit’s operations.